Archaeology is one of the most fascinating fields of study in the world. Though it’s not all about spelunking through cave systems and exploring the depths of ancient pyramids, archaeology can still be full of mystery and wonder. In this list, we’ve gathered some of the most exciting and intense archaeological discoveries from the past few centuries. Not every day or even every year yields amazing discoveries, but the ones on this list have changed history forever, often rewriting it and changing our conceptions or understanding about our ancestors and our planet.
You’ll read about bloody human sacrifices; a subterranean city which seems like it came right out of a Dan Brown novel; the ancient world’s first computer, which was way before its time; and countless human tombs, including a baby disposal where newborns were tossed in a sewer. You’ll even learn about a centuries-old manuscript which not even World War II code-breakers could decipher. Maybe you’ll want to have a go at it? Impress your friends and family with your newfound knowledge, most of which Indiana Jones himself doesn’t know. (And not just because he’s fictional.) Dig into this list of 25 Intense Archaeological Discoveries Which Rewrote History.
The Richest Sunken Treasure Ship
Colombia recently discovered the remains of the San Jose galleon just off its coast. This Spanish ship was sunk by the British in 1708 and is being called the “most valuable shipwreck discovery of all time” with around a billion dollars worth of precious metals and gems in its hull. Many countries are fighting legal battles over who can claim the riches.
A presumed 2,000 year-old human innovation, the Baghdad Battery was thought to be a primitive battery, generating an electrical current which could plate metal objects. Modern archaeologists have mostly denounced the theory, claiming it was only used to store scrolls.
Dead Sea Scrolls
One of the most elucidating archaeological finds yet, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in caves near Jericho by a young goat herder. Primarily in Hebrew, the scrolls record over 500 years of history (from the third century B.C. to the second century A.D.) including Jesus Christ’s birth and the subsequent rise of Christianity. One of the scrolls, the Copper Scroll, even told researchers where to find dozens of other scrolls.
Though the Screaming Mummy refers to one specific mummy, mummies are generally found with their mouths open because the head falls back after death. (Creepy.) This specific mummy is speculated to be the son of Pharaoh Ramses III, possibly killed for trying to assassinate his father. Though the body was not prepared for the afterlife, it was hastily mummified, signaling that it may have been at the crossroads of one person trying to punish it and preventing it from an afterlife and another trying to make sure it made it to judgment.
Sacsayhuaman is Quechua for “satisfied falcon” and is the best example of the tremendous detail of Incan craftsmen. Built by 20,000 men over 70 years, the massive structure has an astonishing design; each stone of the citadel fits together without any mortar or binding devices. Even after many centuries, the stones were cut so precisely that not even a piece of paper fits between them.